Review: Treasure Planet

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

Poor Disney. Their dynasty of hand drawn animation began back in 1989, with The Little Mermaid, and I personally believe that the dynasty started to crumble with The Lion King. It was with The Lion King in 1994 that Disney gave up their plum, Thanksgiving release date for animation, and switched it to the middle of June. While this was successful for The Lion King, it was disastrous for second rate movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Tarzan. In this year’s Treasure Planet, Disney has spent...and this is not an exaggeration, 180 million dollars to make and market this movie. Unfortunately, while this is a better family movie than some of the current cinematic garbage (Kangaroo Jack?), it appears to fit nicely among the ranks of disappointing Disney summer animation (Tarzan, Hercules...etc) rather than the Thanksgiving fair (Mermaid, Beast...etc) like its release date might indicate.

Treasure Planet has to be remembered as one of the year’s biggest financial disasters. It will probably finish its run with a tad over $40,000,000 in the bank, which will give Disney a lose of $140,000,000! This is disappointing not only for the accountants over at Disney, but this surely means the end of dramatic animation adaptations from Disney. There will be no more “the next Beauty and the Beast.”

As most already know, Treasure Planet is an adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, Treasure Island. A book that many people are familiar with. However, I have never read this novel, and thus was I not acquainted with this tale. Treasure Planet takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Jim Hawkins (voiced by 3rd Rock From the Sun’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 14 year old boy who has become restless, and is subsequently always in trouble. He yearns for adventure. The movie takes little time in presenting Jim with an adventure, when a mysterious man crashes his space-ship outside the inn run by his mother, and warns Jim about a mysterious “cyborg,” then gives Jim his treasure, shortly before dying. Turns out this treasure was not riches, but a map, to the mysterious “Treasure Planet,” a place that everyone thought was myth. Along with Dr. Doppler (David Hyde-Pierce), a friend of the family if you will, they commission a ship to take them to Treasure Planet. This ship is captained by the strong willed Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson), and on this ship, Jim finds the one person he was warned against meeting. His brain tells Jim that he should fear this man, yet they form a father-son bond that is carried throughout the film.

In Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, while both movies were adaptations, they’re characters leapt off the screen. Not so with Treasure Planet. Every line a dialogue seems exactly like that, a line a dialogue. Even in Lilo & Stitch, the characters had some life to them, everything in Treasure Planet though, feels dead, life-less, and flat. In the hayday of Disney animation, when a character would say a cliched line, it would actually resonate with the audience, but in Treasure Planet, lines like “you have the makings of greatness in you” are actually laughable.

In animation, the focus is usually squarely on the animation itself. And to be sure, Treasure Planet is one of the most viscerally pleasing hand drawn animated movies in a long time. Unfortunately, now that CGI has made its presence known, even high quality hand drawn animation looks goofy. It would be unfair to hold that against Treasure Planet, though. After all, just because we have a new shiny toy, that doesn’t mean we have to cast the old toy away.

Star Wars: Episode 1 was to be sure, one of the most anticipated movies EVER. When the Star Wars nuts emerged from the theaters, most loved the movie (how could they not after such build-up?), yet there was one, glaring problem to the film: Jar Jar Binks. Well, I thought the day would never come, but Treasure Planet has THE most annoying supporting character put in for comic relief, that of “B.E.N.” (voiced by Martin Short, in a headache inducing, over the top, performance) the android. This character aspires to be Jeannie from Aladdin, but ends up being an annoying liability that harms the movie more than helps it. I understand that a kids movie needs humor, but did it have to be so bad?

I saw Treasure Planet at the dollar-show, evident by the lateness of this review. Treasure Planet is certainly worth the dollar if you have 90 minutes to kill with younger brothers and sisters, but nothing more. Treasure Planet is to be sure one of the biggest disappointments of the year. While I do recommend Treasure Planet over Disney’s summer movie: Lilo & Stitch, that really isn’t saying much. If Walt could see what has happened to his beloved company, he would turn over in his grave!

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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